- People like to buy.

- People hate being sold or being forced to buy.

- People buy from people that they like and trust.

Everyone has encountered the above three statements. You have heard them either verbatim or by means of different words that convey the same or similar meaning.

All people go through a distinctive buying process regardless of whether they are buying groceries, buying consumer goods for their home or making large purchases for their corporations.

- The first stage in this process is to perceive need.

- The second stage is to research alternatives.

- The third stage is to make the purchase (decision).

- The fourth stage is to perform post-purchase analysis.

There is no defined timeframe and/or set of tasks that need to occur in each of these stages.

Sometimes this process is very short. For example, an individual is not going to perform weeks of research on what type lettuce they plan to buy.

Sometimes this process is very long and drawn out. For example, a corporate executive will almost always perform a significant amount of research before buying a five million dollar CRM system for his or her corporation.

Some of you are probably saying, yeah right! I do not go through that process every time I buy. What if I was going out to dinner? I am not thinking through four stages. I just go out and eat.

Well it is my turn to say, “No! You do not just go out and eat.” You go through the process either consciously or subconsciously. Here is how it works.

Perceive Need: I am hungry. There is nothing in my refrigerator. I need to go out and eat.

Research Alternatives: What do I feel like eating today? - Chinese, Mexican, Steak, Italian, Fast food or Pizza.

My clothes have been fitting a little too snug this past few weeks, may be I should avoid fast food.

I like Chinese food, but I had it earlier this week. The Italian restaurant is eight miles away. I can just walk to the Mexican restaurant on the next block; the food is not bad and it is not too pricey either.

Make the Purchase (Decision): I guess am going to have Mexican food for dinner tonight.

Post-Purchase analysis: That burrito is sitting in my stomach like a rock and I feel heartburn coming on. Maybe I should have driven to the Italian place or just stayed in and ordered a pizza. A pizza would have been just as cheap. The Italian place was pricey. However, I would not be suffering heartburn now. OR

That was the best burrito I ever had and I am full. I am glad that I decided to eat Mexican food tonight.

Therefore, it seems apparent that we go through the four stages of buying regardless of what we are buying.

Let us examine these four stages from a corporate perspective. I do not think anyone out there is reading this book with the intent of understanding his or her decision process when choosing a restaurant. At least I hope not.

Stage1 – Perceive Need: The individual decision maker, group of decision makers or corporate management perceives a need.

This perceived need might sometimes be an urgent or critical need, like that perceived because of an existing or imminent crisis.

For example, someone hacked into our systems, our competitor already has it, government regulation dictates it, etc.

At other times, the perceived need may be less urgent.

For example, the existing accounting system is becoming outdated so we would like to update our accounting system soon, we should get more health insurance benefits for our employees, etc.

Regardless of the urgency, when the corporation identifies a need, they usually begin analyzing alternatives. This leads us to:

Stage2 – Research Alternatives: The analysis and research of alternatives is typically (but not always) a documented process within most organizations. Regardless of whether it is formal or informal, written or unwritten, it exists.

For instance, one organization might have a purchase evaluation team that analyses all alternatives and prepares written reports for upper management to decide. In other cases, it might just be one individual, a mid-level or senior manager, who gets multiple quotes before deciding.

Either way, involvement at this stage is very important for you - the sales professional. If you already have a trusted relationship with the sole decision maker, the sole decision maker’s superiors, the organization, or some member of the organization who has a reasonable amount of credibility as a strong influencer, you can rest assured that you (your company) will be one of the factors considered in the analysis of alternatives.

If you do not have the trusted relationship, it is almost too late to try to develop it at this stage. I am not saying that it is impossible to do, as I have seen it done successfully even at this late stage. I am just stating that it is an uphill battle.

I am also stressing the importance of establishing relationships with clients, regardless of whether you think they have a current need for your services or products.

You can rarely predict with a reasonable degree of accuracy when an organization might perceive need.

Stage 3 – Make the Purchase (Decision): The organization issues a purchase order or bill of sale and makes the purchase.

Stage 4 – Post-Purchase Analysis: This is another critical stage in the process. Your relationships with the stakeholders can make or break your deal at this stage. This applies regardless of who makes the purchase or how the purchase was made.

There is always at least one (typically more that one) naysayer within every organization. This person or these persons will question the decision and raise doubts about the effectiveness and performance capabilities of the solution that was purchased. The questions usually raised are:

- Did we really need it?

- Did we perform enough research on the alternatives available in the market?

- Did we get a good deal?

If the person or persons that made the decision were in the buying mode, they will defend the decision as if their life depended on it.

Conversely, if the person or persons that made the decision felt like they were being sold or being pressured to buy, they will defend the decision half-heartedly at best.

Additional information on Relationship Selling can be found in Relationship Selling – The Fine Art of Consultative Sales. ISBN: 1432715003.


Dr. Uchil is an entrepreneur, business-owner and author embodying almost three decades of management and consulting experience. Prior to founding The Uchil Group and Uchil, LLC, Dr. Uchil spent over eighteen years in a variety of senior management roles at several large consulting organizations. In addition to his PhD in Business Administration Dr. Uchil also holds an MBA in Consulting Operations Management, a BSEE in Electrical Engineering and a Diploma in Electronics and Telecommunicati...

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